vendredi 16 août 2013

Organizational Methodology.

Moebius, 40 Jours dans le Désert B, 1999.

There is a tsunami of data that is crashing on to the beaches of the civilized world. This is a tidal wave of unrelated, growing data formed in bits and bytes, coming in an unorganized, uncontrolled, incoherent cacophony of foam. It's filled with flotsam and jetsam. It's filled with the sticks and bones and shells of inanimate and animate life. None of it is easily related ; none of it comes with any organizational methodology.

As it washes up on our beaches, we see people in suits and ties skipping along the shoreline, men and women in fin shirts and blouses dressed for business. We see academics, designers and government officials, all getting their shoes wet and slowly submerging in the dense trough of stuff. Their trousers and slacks soaked, they walk stupidly into the water, smiling - a false smile of confidence and control. The tsunami is a wall of data - data produced at a greater and greater speed, greater and greater amounts to store in memory, amounts that double, it seems, with each sunset. On tape, on disks, on paper, sent by streams of light bouncing off the cloud, careening through the ether of Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, G squared. Faster, more and more and more Twitters, texts and Facebooking. They nod their heads and say, "Yes, this is important, this is good stuff. The person sitting next to me, sitting in the next office down the aisle, they understand it, so I smile, making believe I understand it too".

These same people read their newspapers, their iPhone, iPad, their smart-this or smart-that, thinking they understand the issues of the day, whether it's the recession, depression, windfall or downfall, the healthcare debacle, national debt or international debt, taxes, the balance or the imbalance, trade, the dollar more valuable-good? Less valuable-good? They nod their heads, knee-jerking to key words in headlines, but unable to tell anybody else, including themselves, the essence of any issue.

All day, from morning at home, to workday lunches to dinner at night, out loud or to themselves, they 'uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh", making believe they understand a reference to a name, a reference to a fact, the references to knowledge that supposedly makes the world coherent. They "uh-huh" some friend, some teacher, a boss, a peer when a book or movie or magazine article, or piece of machinery, or software, or hardware is discussed. They "uh-huh" everybody because they were taught when they were young that it is no good to look stupid, that it is no good to say "I don't know", it is not good to ask questions, not good to focus on failure. Instead, the rewards come from acknowledging or answering everything with "I know". So they ask each other "keepin' busy" ?

You're supposed to look smart in our society. You are supposed to gain expertise and to sell it as the means of moving ahead in your career. You are supposed to focus on what you know how to do, and then do it better and better. You're supposed to revel in some niche of ability. That is where the rewards are supposed to come from.

Of course, when you sell your expertise - and what I mean by sell is to move ahead in a corporation, or sell an idea to a publisher, or a script to a producer, or sell and ability to a client - when you sell your expertise, by definition, you're selling from a limited repertoire. However, when you sell your ignorance, when you sell your desire to learn about something, when you sell your desire to create and explore and navigate paths to knowledge and understanding, when you sell your curiosity - you sell from a bucket with an infinitely deep bottom that represents an unlimited repertoire. And, you sell in a way that's not intimidating, in a way that joins the explanation to the fascination that comes with that understanding.

How opposite is our life from what we have been taught. Our educational system is based on the memorization of things we're not interested in, bulimicly spewed out on a paper called a test, and then forgotten. We learn to use our short-term memory rather than long-term memory. Many of our interests are shunted aside. The teenagers' interest in music, movies, games cars and sports are looked on as second-rate themes for their lives instead of embraced as connections to all knowledge and wisdom. The car connects to the history of transportation, to our road systems, to our cities and our highways. It connects to the balance of payments and economics around the world. To steel and iron, and steel construction, and plastics and design. It connects to physics and mathematics and chemistry. It connects to foreign languages and culture. To medicine and governmental policy. And, all the things the car connects to connect to everything else. So do sports. And so does entertainment, which connects to technologies of all sorts, to design and hardware and software and information. Information is validated by understanding. We are what we understand.

Richard Saul Wurman, How I Strive to Understand What it is Like not to Understand in Information Graphics, Taschen, 2012, p.39-40.

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